An American Indian should replace Jackson on the $20 bill

NASHVILLE, Tenn.- On Saturday, June 6, 2015 local Native Americans held another in a series of demonstrations  at the Hermitage on the issue of the legacy of the notorious “Indian Killer” Andrew Jackson.  This demonstration differed from those held prior in that the call was for an American Indian, and only an American Indian, to replace Jackson on the $20 bill.

Recently, an organization, Women On $20,  has come forth with the proposal that a woman should replace Jackson on the denomination. This organization collected signatures online in which the voters’ choice was the historical  African American heroine, Harriet Tubman.

From the vantage point of Native Americans in Nashville, we have been besieging the doors of the Hermitage literally for months now, and historically for decades.  Other local Native organizations, most notably,  the Middle Tennessee Indian Lodge, going as far back as the 1970’s, were demonstrating at the  Hermitage against  the glorified  memory of Jackson, this early day American Hitler.

American Indians have born the brunt of opposing Jackson both when he was alive and again today.   

Why  should only an  American Indian replace Jackson on the $20 bill? It would only be the most fitting justice that Jackson should be replaced with a representative of the people he so viciously tried to exterminate.

 I would, of course, opt for Wilma Mankiller, the first female chief of the Cherokee Nation in the 20th century. Considering that Jackson was responsible for the deaths of 4,000-8,000 Cherokees and thousands of other Native Americans there should only be Mankiller or another American Indian considered.  

Jackson did not kill thousands of women or those of other races. He killed thousands of Indians- men, women, children and elderly. He enslaved Native children at the Hermitage taken as war captives. He massacred thousands beginning with the Creek War in 1813. In fact that War, according to prominent historian, William G. McLoughlin, was  “a massacre from beginning to end.”

There is a story current to this day among present-day Muscogee Creeks that the origin of Jackson on the $20 bill stems from Creek children taken in that conflict being sold as “pets” for $20. Hence, the beginning of Jackson’s association with $20.

While we have great respect for the efforts of Women On $20 and the memory of  Harriet Tubman, Jackson’s victims of choice were American Indians. His legacy lives on in the marginalization of Native Americans in every economic, social and political venue imaginable in this country. Recognition of Native Americans is more than long overdue.   

This writer recently posted a letter to the editor that ran in the local paper and all the email responses were overwhelmingly in favor of an American Indian on the bill. Further, since the last demonstration I have been stopped on the street by everyday citizens who expressed support for a Native American to replace Jackson on the money.     

We, Native Americans of Nashville, locked in struggle against the exalted memory of this racist beast, call upon all other American Indians nationwide to support our call for a Native American to replace Jackson on the $20 bill. Further, we call upon Women On $20 and all others involved in this movement to support our advocacy for an American Indian on the bill.

Photo: Wilma Mankiller.  |  J. Pat Carter/AP


Albert Bender
Albert Bender

Albert Bender is a Cherokee activist, historian, political columnist, and freelance reporter for Native and Non-Native publications. He was an organizer and delegate to the First and Second Intercontinental Indian Conferences held in Quito, Ecuador and Quetzaltenango, Guatemala. Recently, he has been an active participant and reporter in the Standing Rock struggle in North Dakota. He is currently writing a legal treatise on Native American sovereignty and working on a book on the war crimes committed by the U.S. against the Maya people in the Guatemalan civil war of the late 20th century. Albert is also a former staff attorney with Legal Services of Eastern Oklahoma (LSEO) in Muskogee and a consulting attorney on Indigenous sovereignty, land restoration, and Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) issues. He is the recipient of several Eagle Awards by the Tennessee Native American Eagle Organization and a former Director of Native American Legal Departments and a Tribal Public Defender.